Reggie McKenzie and the Oakland Raiders understood where their strengths and weaknesses were entering the 2017 offseason. After acquiring Marshawn Lynch, re-signing Derek Carr and Gabe Jackson, the primary focus stemmed down to the defense.
Although they signed free agent Jelani Jenkins, the Raiders wanted to heavily address the defense throughout the 2017 NFL Draft. First round pick Gareon Conley will help the cornerback position, while second round selection Obi Melifonwu will became an immediate help in the passing game.
Melifonwu is a length and athletic defensive back, capable of tackling, guarding the pass and lining up against the tight end position. Although he remained unsigned for quite some time, both he and the Raiders have now come to an agreement, via ESPN’s Adam Schefter:
Raiders and 2nd-round pick Obi Melifonwu agreed to terms, per @seanstellato. Oak still has first rounder unsigned.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 26, 2017
The safety was selected with the 56th overall pick in the draft, after a four-year career at the university of Connecticut. He appeared in 48 games (47 starts) during his tenure there, accumulating 351 tackles (224 solo), 16 passes defended and eight interceptions. He was promptly named to the All-ACC First Team, after leading his team in tackles his senior campaign.
Melifonwu spoke to the media on Wednesday, seeming appreciative of his contract situation. Now in a position to compete a top two spot on the depth chart, he joins the Raiders ready to make an immediate impact, via Eddie Paskal of Raiders.com:
“I’m really glad this process is over,” said Melifonwu. “Now, I can focus on football, on plays, and getting on the field, and helping the team win any way I can.”
The 23-year-old inked his rookie contract at the team’s Napa Valley Training Complex, now available to compete in all football-related activity with the Raiders. Although he practiced alongside his teammates during the offseason workouts, he had to sit out the first three days of their pre-camp. However, he is anxious to get on the field and get accustomed to the Raiders organization:
“That was definitely a goal going into this process,” Melifonwu said when asked about having a deal done before the start of camp. “Especially being here for OTAs [Organized Team Activities] and Rookie Mini-Camp, and then starting the playbook, and just getting accustomed to the guys. It’s just definitely going to be a big start to something great.”
Melifonwu’s athleticism was what stood out throughout his career, climbing the prospect rankings after an impressive NFL Draft Combine appearance. However, his smarts and adaptability is the main factor that has the Raiders really excited about their second-round draft pick.